No.9 seed Anett Kontaveit continued her hot streak in the semifinals of the VTB Kremlin Cup, defeating Marketa Vondrousova for the first time 6-3, 6-4 to reach her fifth final of 2021.
She will face Ekaterina Alexandrova, who progressed after No.3 seed Maria Sakkari retired due to dizziness trailing 4-1 in the first set. The result ensured a home presence in the Moscow title match for the seventh consecutive edition of the tournament.
Three of Kontaveit's finals have come within the past two months. She won her second and third career titles, in Cleveland and Ostrava, has now won 20 of her past 22 matches and is on a nine-match indoor winning streak. Since August, the Estonian's only losses have been to Iga Swiatek in the third round of the US Open and Ons Jabeur in the Indian Wells quarterfinals.
Vondrousova has been historically a tough opponent for Kontaveit. The Czech triumphed 6-4, 7-6(6) in the 2017 Biel final to win her first - and to date only - career title, in just her second WTA main draw. She backed that up with a 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory in the first round of Wimbledon this year. But here, Kontaveit delivered a near-flawless masterclass of confident power tennis to take the match out of Vondrousova's hands.
Stat corner: Kontaveit's determination to control every point was reflected in the numbers - the 25-year-old slammed 26 winners, outweighing her 22 unforced errors, with her backhand proving particularly formidable. She also impressed with her shot selection for the most part. Kontaveit was capable of pulling off several spectacular low-percentage winners, but was also content to hit into big targets to wear Vondrousova down with her sheer weight of shot.
Vondrousova, kept on the back foot, was unable to get into a position to execute her favoured patterns of play with any consistency. The World No.35 could only attempt a handful of her trademark dropshots, and finished with 13 winners and 27 unforced errors.
Match management: Kontaveit's near-perfect performance contained just three blips. She opened the match with a flurry of unforced errors to drop serve, and she also failed to serve out each set at the first opportunity after her accuracy completely departed her.
However, Kontaveit did not permit any of these poor games to become turning points. At the start of the match, she immediately broke Vondrousova back, the start of a purple patch that would take her to a 5-1 lead. At 5-3, Vondrousova held two break points to get back on serve, but Kontaveit came up with a delicate dropshot and a bludgeoning forehand to save both and ultimately close out the set.
In the second set, Vondrousova saved two match points to narrow her deficit from 2-5 to 4-5, but again Kontaveit held firm to serve out the win at the second time of asking.
Alexandrova continues Russian streak at home
The second semifinal saw Alexandrova leap out to a quick lead with some scintillating serving and returning, as well as a hot shot counterdrop, before it was unfortunately abbreviated.
The result puts the 26-year-old into her third career WTA final, and first at WTA 500 level. She will be bidding for her second title following Shenzhen 2020.
Alexandrova becomes the 11th Russian player to reach the Moscow final. Since the tournament's first edition in 1996, 15 out of its 25 finals have featured at least one home player.
Russian representatives in the Kremlin Cup final
Anna Kournikova (F 2000)
Elena Dementieva (F 2001, F 2004, W 2007)
Anastasia Myskina (W 2003, W 2004)
Anna Chakvetadze (W 2006)
Nadia Petrova (F 2006)
Vera Zvonareva (F 2008)
Maria Kirilenko (F 2010)
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (W 2014, F 2015, F 2019)
Svetlana Kuznetsova (W 2015, W 2016)
Daria Kasatkina (F 2017, W 2018)
Ekaterina Alexandrova (? 2021)